Michael Owen's chances of playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ finals suffered another blow when coach Fabio Capello omitted the striker for next week's qualifier with Croatia.

The 29-year-old Manchester United player, who scored his first competitive goal for the English champions in last week's defeat of Wigan Athletic, is his country's fourth-highest goalscorer.

But Capello was not convinced enough by the striker's form to include him in the squad which faces Slovenia in a friendly at Wembley on Saturday before the Group 6 qualifier with Croatia on 9 September where victory would guarantee England's place at South Africa 2010.

Capello has instead decided to keep faith with Tottenham Hotspur talent Jermain Defoe, who has been in fine form this season.

Goalkeeper David James misses out for the third squad running after being forced to sit out Portsmouth's home defeat to Manchester City on Sunday.

In defence, the absence of Rio Ferdinand with a thigh strain has provided Manchester United team-mate Wes Brown with a surprise return.

England squad
Goalkeepers: Ben Foster (Manchester United), Robert Green (West Ham United), Paul Robinson (Blackburn Rovers)

Defenders: Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Wes Brown (Manchester United), Matthew Upson (West Ham United), John Terry (Chelsea, capt), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Wayne Bridge (Manchester City)

Midfielders: Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy/USA), Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Ashley Young (Aston Villa), James Milner (Aston Villa)

Forwards: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Carlton Cole (West Ham United), Peter Crouch (Tottenham Hotspur)